Kaihua has been leading the industry in developing mechanical switches for laptops. Even though there aren’t many keyboard/laptop designs featuring their switches just yet, it’s surely only a matter of time before consumers are demanding them on notebooks. Meanwhile, the company is pouring resources into creating a whole series of notebook switches. The latest is the PG1316, which is the lowest-profile package yet at just 4.36mm.
If that number doesn’t immediately strike you as notable, consider this handy image:
The one on the right, the X switch, is 6.5mm. The new PG1316 is more than 2mm shallower than that. Another comparison that’s apt for laptops is that the height of a USB Type-A port is 4.5mm; this switch package is a hair shorter than that at 4.36mm. It’s really really thin is what I’m saying.
The total travel is just 1.9mm. Again, for comparison, 1.9mm is the actuation point of many standard Cherry MX-style desktop switches. The actuation point of the PG1316 switch is just 1.1mm. That’s 0.1mm shallower than the X switch all around (actuation is 1.2mm, full travel is 2.0mm).
Kailh Notebook Switches PG1350 (Choc Switch) PG1232 (Mini choc) PG1442 PG1425(X Switch) PG1316
Type Linear, tactile, clicky Clicky Linear, clicky Tactile, clicky Clicky
Actuation Point 1.5mm (+/-0.5mm) 1.2mm (+/-0.5mm) 1.4mm (+/-0.3mm) 1.2mm (+/-0.3mm) 1.1mm (+/-0.3mm)
Actuation Force 50gf 50gf 50gf (+/-10gf) 50gf (+/-10gf) 55gf (+/-15gf)
Pressure Point Force 60gf 60gf 55gf 60gf 60gf (approx.)
Action Standard Standard Scissor Scissor Scissor
LED Location Top of switch housing Top of switch housing Center Top of switch housing Center
Total Travel 3mm (+/-0.5mm) 2.4mm (+/-0.5mm) 2.7mm(+/-0.2mm) 2.0mm(+/-0.3mm) 1.9mm (+/-0.3mm)
You may also notice that the tolerances for these notebook switches are a bit tighter than deeper switches. It’s typical to see 0.5mm tolerances–even on the relatively thin PG1350 Choc switches–but the PG1442, PG1425, and PG1316 are all +/-0.3mm for the most part. That’s a necessary step forward given how small the travels are. With only 1.9mm to work with, 0.5mm in either direction would have created a wide and potentially chaotic range of 1.4-2.4mm. Oy.
The weights of the whole crop of Kaihua’s laptop switches are nearly identical. With the exception of the PG1442, all actuate at 60gf (even so, the PG1442 is at 55gf), and all have operating forces of 50-55gf.
Why do both the PG1442 and PG1316 Exist?
Given the fact that the specs for the PG1442 and PG1316 are so similar, asking why both of them exist is a fair question. Looking at the specs and features alone, the only notable difference is that the former has a much longer travel than the latter (2.7mm vs. 1.9mm). They require about the same weights, and they both have scissor designs and centered LED lighting.
It is entirely likely that Kaihua is simply searching for a solution that clicks (pun) with notebook makers and consumers and is using variations on a theme to do so. The company is remarkably adept at iterating; its process for the last couple of years has been to pick a few designs to perfect. I’ve certainly seen all of these switches in different stages of completion, and they keep changing little by little.
Now that Kaihua is apparently happy with a few final designs, the next step is to get laptop OEMs to start implementing them. I wager that after consumers get their fingers on laptops with these switches on board, it will become more apparent to Kaihua and its OEM partners which switches will stick. (Not literally stick. That would be bad.)
The major difference between those two switches and the X switch is the position of the LED. If I’m not mistaken, the X switch doesn’t actually have a spot for the LED, but rather it relies on an SMD design that illuminates an area under the base of the switch and shines through the transparent scissor arms of the switch.
You could make the same argument I made above about the X switch and why it exists alongside the PG1442 and/or PG1316. If you did, I’m not sure I would debate you. It’s possible that it’s all just part of the Kaihua notebook experiment–an experiment that continues with the super slim PG1316.